QUALIFYING for a sought-afterglobal challenge event that brought together some 2,000 students from over 80 countries was a golden opportunity and valuable experience for a group of eight students from Sekolah Seri Puteri (SSP), Cyberjaya.
The World Scholar’s Cup (WSC) is a unique academic tournament that encourages students to showcase and discover their intellectual strengths.
Themed A World on the Margins, WSC 2019 brought students to master six subjects, namely history, arts and music, science, social studies, literature and a special area named Unsolved Mysteries.
Participants go through a regional round first to qualify for the global round.
Once they excel at the globalround, they will pre-qualify for the annual Tournament of Champions (TOC) at the prestigious Yale University in the United States.
The eight students − Arisha Zafreen Shahril Izuan, Elea Maisarah Hafizuddin, Hafni Irdina Salahuddin Adri, Hannah Atiqah Zulhazame, Myra Amani Amran, Nur Adlina Nadhirah Rahmat, Nur Maryissha Khairul Azmi and Puteri Maryam Inas Asmunni, aged 14 and 15 − qualified at the regional round in Kuala Lumpur.
They made it into the global round in Beijing before advancing to the Tournament of Champions last November.
The girls, who are also in the school’s English debate team, put their brains to the test in four events, namely Collaborative Writing, Team Debate, Scholar’s Challenge and Scholar’s Bowl.
After battling some of the brightest minds from around the globe, they walked away with 28 gold and silver medals.
According to Elea Maisarah, competing in WSC strengthened the team's knowledge in multiple disciplines.
“The Scholars’ Challenge, which is a multiple choice test, required us to read, analyse and find the links between different subjects like literature and social studies,” she said.
“We were exposed to music and literary works featuring people who are discriminated against and isolated from society,” added Puteri Maryam Inas.
For Hafni Irdina, WSC widened her academic horizons. “Through the competition, I was able to explore a different type of education which was more wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. We were given more freedom and autonomy in our learning.
“Preparing everything by ourselves helped us to be self-reliant and more mature,” she said.
The collaborative writing event saw the teams brainstorming three topics and producing individual argumentative compositions.
“One topic required us to transform a minor character into the major character. This event developed our critical thinking skills,” said Puteri Maryam Inas.
Hannah Atiqah, who won gold in the writing event, said: “In the essay, we presented our opinions on societal matters and some justifications to support them.
“I wrote about how music can help the marginalised community and create a bond between people from different backgrounds.”
Through Scholar’s Bowl and Team Debate, WSC cultivated confidence, teamwork and communication skills.
“Speaking up and socialising with other participants improved my self-confidence.
The Scholar’s Bowl also tested the team’s chemistry and built a sense of trust within the team,” she said.
Each team has to work together to solve analytical questions and multimedia challenges for Scholar’s Bowl.
For Team Debate, each team has to debate three times on motions across all subjects.
When one of her original team members did not pass through the global rounds,
Nur Adlina Nadhirah found herself working with a new teammate from Bangladesh.
“Despite our differences, we understood each other well. I had a great time teaming up with someone I didn’t know initially.
The accepting community is what distinguishes WSC from other international competitions,” she said.
Nur Maryissha saw an improvement in her social skills.
“At WSC, not every participant is fluent in English. Despite the language barrier, we learnt to communicate and get our message across during the debate.
“We also took part in social gatherings like the cultural fair and scavenger hunt.
The opportunity to mingle with students from over 80 countries is an experience you can’t get elsewhere.”
The Tournament of Champions also exposed the students to the Yale student environment.
Stepping into the Ivy League university was an amazing experience, said Myra Amani.
“It’s not every day that you get to tour a renowned university and interact with the students and the faculty. We had a glimpse of what it was like to study at Yale University.
“During the scavenger hunt, my team visited the dorms and colleges. We really had fun learning from the students about their life there,” she added.
Joining the competition provided an avenue for the students to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York.
“We visited the UN General Assembly and Security Council which inspires me to join a UN mission in the future,” said Puteri Maryam Inas.
Winning big did not come without obstacles which include a visa application delay experienced by Hannah Atiqah.
“I went to Yale a day later than the others because of the delay in obtaining visa approval. I am considered fortunate as one of our friends did not get her visa approved in time,” she said.
Nur Maryissha said that they put in a lot of effort for the competition.
“We spent our nights preparing for WSC and had to excuse ourselves from certain events. After the Form Three Assessment, everyone else was having fun but we were studying the modules.”
This year, the students hope to compete again and place among the Top 20 teams.